Picking your perfect wedding photographer!

Before I begin, I just want to say that all opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Not all photographers feel or work the same way. These opinions are based on my experiences over the past 5 wedding seasons – experiences that have helped shape, perfect, and constantly improve my photography system. These opinions are only meant to assist you in your search for the perfect photographer. In the end, it’s your opinion that matters most!

One of the worst parts of my job happens about once a year. A bride brings me her wedding photographs, taken by a different photographer, and begs me re-edit the images in an attempt to improve the overall quality. My views on photography are fairly old school – the images should be as close to perfect from the camera as reasonably possible. (Yes, I am anti- unnecessary Photoshopping). A cute pose is not really that great if the image quality is super low. Inexperienced wedding photographers tend to try to properly expose an image by simply increasing their ISO rather than trying to improve the circumstances around the pose. Big mistake! An image that is taken with a high ISO or out of focus simply cannot be fixed. So what’s the best way to prevent this type of situation? By picking the correct wedding photographer for YOUR special day. That said, here are my thoughts on selecting the right photographer and ultimately getting the photographs of your dreams!

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Do your research

Talk to your friends and family. Check out reviews online. Whatever you do, do not start by shopping around with money on your mind. If you are simply shopping based on your budget, you are not putting your best interests first. You should start your search by finding photographers with the style of photographs you are looking for. Not all photographers are the same. We are artists. We do not see the world the same way. You want to find a photographer that consistently photographs weddings in a similar way to what you envision your photographs looking like.

Once you have an idea of the style of photography that’s right for you, pick out your top 3-5 photographers. At this point, you should begin to compare the investment value of the photographer to your budget, and narrow down your choices to those within and just out of your budget. (Sometimes that extra $500 is a small price to pay to get exactly what you want!)
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Get Up Close and Personal

Next is my favorite part – meeting with your top choices! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT book a photographer without first meeting with them in person. Emailing different photographers is a great way to get familiar with each other, but you cannot really know if they are ideal for you until you actually chat with them face to face. Personalities don’t always mesh, and you want to be sure your photographer is someone that you not only feel comfortable giving a personal view of the most important day of your life, but someone that you can see yourself working with for an 8-10 hour period. In each of my consultations I tell my potential clients:

“If you don’t like what I am telling you, don’t book me. If you don’t like my images, don’t book me. If you don’t like my personality, don’t book me. You will not hurt my feelings if you decide to go with someone else. I would rather you pick the photographer that best fits your needs rather than try to force it with me”.

The consultation is YOUR time to ask questions. When you meet with a photographer, they should give you a physical contract that explains everything that you should expect from the them and what they expect from you. I highly recommend that the contract you sign says more than “I promise to photograph your wedding on XX date”. This contract should fully explain payment, cancellation, and rescheduling policies; recommended wedding day timelines; photo package details; travel fees; dinner arrangements; product delivery timelines; cooperation clauses, etc. If the contract does not include some of this information or is unclear about something, now is your time to ask about it.
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But Not Too Personal

One thing that can be overlooked is model release or photo usage rights. Yes, the photographer legally owns the images, but the photographer does not have the right to use your images publicly without your permission. This includes on a website, blog, Facebook, or any other form of social media. The contract should address this and give you the opportunity to designate public usage permissions.
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Commitment is a Two Way Street

Other things to keep in mind include whether the photographer a full time wedding photographer. If not, how many other outside jobs will they have during my wedding week? How many weddings do they take on a year? How many other weddings will they be photographing that day/weekend? And finally, how long does it take for your images to be processed?

Your potential photographer should be able to easily answer these questions. My response to them is as follows: About 80% of my business consists of weddings/ engagements. The remaining is spent teaching photography at a local art gallery, special event photography, boudoir sessions, and the occasional family session. I do not maintain an outside job, nor do I photograph children or seniors. During a wedding week, I try to avoid shooting more than one session in the days leading up to your special day (I will accept a Sunday afternoon engagement after your wedding day, so a max of 2 additional sessions a week). I only accept 20 weddings a year, with only one wedding per weekend. I tend to post the finished wedding images 2-3 weeks after a wedding, with a physical delivery about a week and a half later.
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Can They Practice What They Preach?

You should also find out what the photographer’s lighting techniques consist of. A photographer that 100% relies on natural light is not fit to photograph most weddings. This might work for portrait sessions, but not an entire wedding day. Their system should include at least 3 flash units/ Speedlights for indoor photography, off camera lighting for family formals, and a mix for reception coverage. The photographer should also have at least two professional cameras. I personally work with a Nikon D700 with my D300 as a backup, and I will be adding a D750 or D810 to the mix in April.
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The Little Details Matter the Most

Organizational skills are just as important as photographic skills. The photographer should have a tried and true system of photographing a wedding. Everyone works differently, but your potential photographer should be able to walk you through their system at the consultation and preferably have it in the contract. Having specific minimum times, a system for photographing family formals post ceremony, and cooperation standards make the difference between a successful wedding day and a stressful wedding day.
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No Reason to Rush

Never book your photographer at your initial consultation! There shouldn’t be an ounce of pressure from the photographer for you to book during your consult. This is extremely important, because if you sign right away and decide after booking to go with another photographer you may forfeit your down payment. It is extremely important that you take the time to review the contract for anything you might have overlooked during your consult, as well as to talk to your significant other about the photographer in a private setting. You are more likely to discuss the meeting thoroughly without the potential photographer being within earshot.DSC_5481lr

Do Some More Research

Always look at full weddings that the photographer has done. The photographs on the website are great, but they are only the best of the best, not an entire wedding day. Sometimes they are even from photo shoots with hired models, not actual wedding day photography! Look at a minimum of 2 different weddings photographed in a venue similar to yours. If you are getting married in a church, do not look at only outdoor ceremonies! Many photographers do not have the knowledge or equipment to properly photograph an indoor ceremony, and this is something that you definitely do not want to find out after your big day is done. Always, always, ALWAYS look through at least 300 images from the SAME wedding!DSC_8817lr

Sign That Contract!

Once you decide on a photographer, you are finally able to sign a contract! You don’t have too, but it is always nice to let the photographers that you had a consultation with know that you have decided to go with someone else. Don’t feel bad about doing this! We understand that our wedding photography style does not work for everyone and would rather have you go with the person best suited for you. There is also a good chance that there is another bride interested in that same date with that same photographer, so giving this courtesy response will potentially help make some other bride’s day!DSC_8996lr
Final Thoughts

Hopefully that gives those of you looking for a wedding photographer a decent starting point. Please remember that this information is only my opinion. All photographers work differently, so it this information might be completely irreverent for your or their situation. When it comes to picking your perfect wedding photographer, the only thing that matters is your gut feeling. Only you know what works for you!

Feel free to comment below or on my Facebook page any thoughts or concerns you may have! What stresses you out the most about searching for vendors? What do you look for in your perfect photographer?438lr

Wedding season is quickly approaching! Be sure to book your Spring engagement sessions now before my schedule gets crazy. I still have room for 3 more 2015 weddings with 2016 quickly booking
up as well!

Stay Happy,
Ashley Lynn

 

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Stephanie & Brice: Engagement Session

Believe it or not, the weather is soon to slowly start warming up. With the extreme cold, the past two months seemed to just drag on forever. Fortunately the end is near. We are also near the end of my 2014 engagement sessions. This means that it is time for Spring sessions!

Interested in a Spring engagement session? Contact me right away. My weekends will fill up extremely fast as soon as that snow melts. Until then, enjoy Stephanie & Brice’s fall session.

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Lynette & Paul: Engagement Session

I love fall. I have always loved fall, way before it was cool. Even though it is my busiest time of the year (which means a dirty house, a severe lack of home-cooked food, and 12 hour days of computer work), the season will always have a place in my heart.

Winter is fun. . .For about a month. Come the end of January the snow has overstayed its welcome and the cold is bitter.

Spring is just a mean illusion. The weather is warming up and the inviting colors are starting to emerge, but it accompanied with wet, muddy, and temperamental days. I do love a good, strong thunderstorm or two.

Summer. Ugh. Summer. In 2013 I took my first out of state trip ever to Florida (Cedar Point doesn’t count). Just walking off the plane at  Orlando International Airport in the middle of October made me want to cancel 7 days at Disney World. Seriously. I hate humidity.

That just leaves me fall with her mild, yet warm temperatures, beautiful colors, and perfect lighting. As a child, I always looked forward to school, homecoming, cider doughnuts, and Thanksgiving. Fall = Perfection.

Here is another throwback to my fall 2014 engagement session with Lynette and Paul. I still have a few more sessions left to post. Wedding season starts April 25th!

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Kaylyn & Eric: Engagement Session

Kaylyn and Eric decided to include some extremely important family members to their engagement session. . .their puppies!!! Well, they might not physically be puppies anymore, however I believe that all dogs are puppies at heart. It was fantastic seeing their furry friends running around the massive family land up in Twining (close to Au Gres).

I’m really looking forward to Kaylyn & Eric’s NYE 2015 wedding. I find that NYE weddings have the absolute best receptions. It’s wonderful because guests come with the full intention of ringing in the New Year with the bride and groom. That dance floor is always full at midnight!

My first Introduction to DSLR class of the year is already COMPLETELY full! We will be adding a second class shortly to accommodate everyone. Please contact me for more information or to be put on the wait list.

Enjoy (and stay warm)!

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Alex & Andrew: Engagement Session

I love engagement sessions with my clients!

It always starts out the same. Usually driving slowly through the parking lot of our designated venue, staring into random cars, hoping to spot one another without seeming too creepy. Then it leads into casual reintroductions of each other and figuring out how to get the session started.

Now it gets really awkward! Me behind the camera trying to act cool and professional (even though I’m freaking out a little bit inside). The couple staring at the camera nervous and confused.  All of a sudden I crack a silly joke, everyone relaxes, and 2 hours of fun ensues.

Engagement sessions are extremely important not only to the couple, but to me. It’s a time for the 3 of us to spend some time getting used to each other and learning how to work together. Photographing a wedding is not about sitting in the corner taking photos, but working in unison to create a beautiful day.

I find that couples who take advantage of the engagement session are more relaxed on their wedding day, which positively impacts their photographs. It also helps me have the ability to jump right into the day already knowing exactly the best way to work with the bride and groom!

Here are some photographs from Alex and Andrew’s Frankenmuth fall engagement session. It was wonderful wandering around the Rose Garden, Riverwalk Palace, and The Fortress Golf Course. I especially loved the fact that Alex had a few ideas in her mind of photos that she wanted. Having complete control over the session all the time can be difficult, so I always appreciate a few pointers from my clients!

Enjoy!

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Mandy & Ben: December 13, 2014

Here it is, my last wedding of 2014!

Even with the high winds and the nonstop rain, I had a great time photographing Mandy & Ben’s 12-13-14 wedding. The couple were married at Bay City’s First Presbyterian Church with a reception at Saginaw’s beautiful Temple Theater.

Between the ceremony and reception, Ben’s family surprised the newlyweds with a ride in Pinecrest Percherons’ Cinderella Carriage.

Hope everyone enjoys the upcoming holidays! I will be back after the new year to share more engagement sessions on the blog.

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Brooke & Kevin: November 8, 2014

It may have been cold and rainy, but Brooke and Kevin’s wedding went off without a hitch! Their ceremony was held at the Pere Marquette Train Depot in front of a full house. The place was so packed that I had to capture the entire ceremony trapped in the main aisle (usually I like to get a few photos from the side). After a short ceremony, the bridal party was bused over for a few photos at Williams Township Park. I have to say, Brooke, her bridesmaids, and my cameras were troopers with the cold, windy weather.

The night finished off at Forest Edge Banquet Center with Frank of Hidalgo Entertainment keeping the dance floor packed late into the night. I also want to give a big shout out to Mary’s Creative Cakery as they made THE BEST banana cake that I ever had! I love me some banana cake.

Congrats Brooke and Kevin!

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